Farm harvesting crabapples in community to help preserve often-overlooked crop

Fields to Forks Article Sample

KITCHENER -- Two brothers from Wellesley are utilizing crabapples -- a tasty fruit that often goes to waste.

Appleflats uses crabapples from their farm to serve up sweet jellies and mixes. Appleflats also harvests crabapples out in the community to help preserve the crop.

"Appleflats is the only crabapple-focused company in North America," CEO Glen Smyth said. "What that means is we are full service, fully integrated on crabapples."

The journey started with just one tree.

"My parents and aunt and uncle bought the property and to celebrate the completion of the house, they planted what was supposed to be a generic apple tree," Smyth said. "Turned out to be these rare Canadian crabapples."

Years later, that tree help produce an idea -- preserving the unique crop while providing flavourful food for consumers.

"We only work with Dolgo apples, which is one of three not-so-common anymore varieties that are around," Smyth said. "If you were to drive past and see a Dolgo crabapple, it actually will look almost exactly like a cherry."
 They're much smaller than the average apple found on store shelves.

"If you think of a lot of apples at the grocery store, they are all roughly the same size and that's done because of the packing equipment," Smyth said. "(It) focuses on a generic size of apple. Unfortunately our crabapples are only about an inch and a half in diameter and they don't fit into traditional machinery. That's really why they are disappearing. There is no functional use for them at this point and that's actually the problem we are trying to solve right now."

Appleflats harvests apples from hundreds of trees from Strathroy to Peterborough.

"We actually rely on the community for a large majority of our harvest," Smyth said. "At this point in time, we are urban harvesting. We go to front yards, back yards, community gardens, hospitals, you name it. We are going to pick those trees to preserve those trees in the community for others to enjoy as well."

Harvest is over now, but Smyth is encouraging people to reach out if they have Dolgo crabapples and want to help sustain the fruit.

"There's a really much larger agricultural element behind it that really we are only beginning to uncover," Smyth said.